Class Action Lawsuits

Uptown People's Law Center has seven class action lawsuits filed against the Illinois Department of Corrections. These lawsuits will ultimately change the prison system in Illinois for the better. To learn more about a case, click on the name. 


Rasho v. Baldwin: Mental Health Care

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) punishes prisoners with mental illness, rather than properly treating them, and the treatment that is available is grossly inadequate. In May 2016, we entered into a settlement agreement with IDOC to completely revamp the way people with serious mental illnesses are treated in Illinois prisons. 

Lippert v. Baldwin: Medical Care

Health care in Illinois prisons is so inadequate that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. We are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections to fix the medical and dental care provided to Illinois prisoners. 

Holmes v. Baldwin: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Prisoners

Uptown People's Law Center is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections for failing to provide Deaf and hard of hearing prisoners with interpreters, hearing aids, or other assistive devices, thus depriving them of meaningful access to medical appointments, religious services, disciplinary hearings, and many other vital interactions with staff. 

Davis v. Baldwin: Solitary Confinement

Illinois prisoners are confined, often for 24 hours a day, to small, airless cells with no natural light, reduced food, and minimal yard time. Many are held in this extreme isolation for years. We are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections to end this cruel and unusual punishment. 

Morales v. Monreal: Parole Revocation

In October 2016, we settled a case that now requires Illinois to provide attorneys and adequate hearings to eligible parolees accused of violating parole. We are now monitoring the implementation of the settlement agreement. 

Ross v. Gossett: Excessive Force

Uptown People's Law Center is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections on behalf of hundreds of prisoners who experienced excessive force, and physical and sexual assault at the hands of an abusive team of correctional officers called the "Orange Crush tactical team."

MH v. Finley: Juvenile Parole

In January 2015, we settled a case that now requires Illinois to provide attorneys (at the state's expense) to juveniles who are accused of violating their parole. 


Closed Cases:

Westerfer v. Snyder: Closing Tamms Supermax Prison:

Tamms Supermax Prison housed hundreds of prisoners in round-the-clock solitary confinement. UPLC sued, stating that prisoners were sent to Tamms as retaliation for speaking out against the Illinois Department of Corrections. In 2010, the District Court ruled that every prisoner who had been sent to Tamms had been denied a hearing which complied with the minimum requirements of due process. UPLC then led the fight which, three years later, permanently closed the prison. 


One third of the prisoner deaths in Illinois reviewed by an independent expert were preventable. That’s according to a new report that rips health care in Illinois prisons as extremely poor, with medical professionals committing egregious errors and little accountability or oversight. The findings by the independent expert echo the horror stories inmates have been telling for years.

In a ruling that lawyers called "historic," a federal judge ordered that Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) review the case of Strawberry Hampton, a 27-year-old transgender woman who is being-held in a male-only detention facility downstate.

Illinois has just two weeks to present a plan to train its prison staff on transgender issues and rethink the placement of a trans inmate at the center of a highly-publicized abuse allegation.

Most allegations are never proven, but accusations of sex between inmates and staff keep coming at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, the state’s largest women’s prison.

Censorship Isolates LGBTQ Prisoners, Lawsuit Says
Censorship Isolates LGBTQ Prisoners, Lawsuit Says

On Oct. 18, Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center sued the Illinois Department of Corrections director on behalf of Chicago’s Black and Pink chapter for censoring the organization’s mail sent inside state prisons. According to the lawsuit, 11 prisons censored and refused mail from Black and Pink Chicago on over 200 occasions since 2016. The DOC’s censorship of Black and Pink material is part of a wider pattern of discrimination against LGBTQ people, the attorneys said.

In an order entered Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel said the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Transgender Care Review Committee must consider all evidence for and against transferring 27-year-old Strawberry Hampton to a women’s facility. The department has previously rejected her request to move.

Knowing there were other transgender inmates in prisons in Illinois and across the country made Leila Lee feel as though she wasn’t alone. She said it also made her want to help people like herself when she was released from prison.

In a permanent injunction issued Tuesday, a federal judge found that Illinois prison inmates face an ongoing, serious risk of harm because of inadequate mental health care.

In 2016, the Illinois Department of Corrections reached a settlement agreeing to properly care for the needs of mentally ill inmates. The lawsuit was filed a decade ago on behalf of inmates claiming the lack of care in prisons qualified as cruel and unusual punishment. On Wednesday, a federal judge found the corrections department is still failing to meet those needs.

Several Illinois prisons banned or censored publications, greeting cards and other written materials published by a group advocating for LGBTQ prisoners, it said in a free speech lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago Thursday.

Attorneys with the Uptown People’s Law Center filed the suit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink – a nonprofit that offers prisoners news updates on LGBTQ issues through a monthly newsletter and other publications.

Today, attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide LGBTQ people in prison with allies on the outside. For over two years, Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) has censored communication between this organization and LGBTQ prisoners in Illinois.

The Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center is filing a lawsuit today that alleges Illinois prisons are censoring correspondence and publications that have been mailed to prisoners by Black and Pink, a prisoners’ rights organization focused on supporting incarcerated LGBTQ and HIV-positive people.

Officials at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln have ignored sexual misconduct involving guards and other employees, according to three lawsuits filed since last November.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) was sued by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author for allegedly censoring her nonfiction book, “Blood In The Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.” Heather Thompson ordered her book from Amazon and had it sent to three inmates. One inmate received the book while the other two inmates received censorship notices without any explanation.

Two Illinois prisons have censored Blood in the Water, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by historian Heather Ann Thompson about the 1971 Attica prison uprising. Today, the Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center where I work is filing a lawsuit to challenge this unconstitutional and unethical censorship.

Thirteen prisoners were sitting in a stuffy classroom at Illinois’ Stateville Correctional Center one morning last April when a group of prison administrators invited themselves in─and closed the doors behind them.

Uptown People's Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections for shutting down a prison debate team. This spring, WGN Investigates profiled inmates who participated a prison debate team at the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet.

The Illinois Department of Corrections was sued on Tuesday over its controversial decision to abruptly halt a debate program at Stateville Correctional Center, weeks after the class debated the state parole laws before an audience that included 18 legislators and other state officials.

More than a dozen inmates inside one of Illinois’ most notorious prisons began meeting on a weekly basis last fall to discuss an unconventional topic: debate. Fourteen prisoners housed at Stateville Correctional Center were chosen last year to begin a new debate team at the maximum-security facility. But after they started researching topics like parole and offered draft legislation to state legislators, they say corrections directors shut their program down.

The Uptown People’s Law Center is suing IDOC on behalf of debate coach Katrina Burlet, who says she was allowed to create debate teams within the prison to help inmates develop communications skills and more.

On August 21, incarcerated people in at least 17 different states launched a 19-day "strike" in response to an April riot at South Carolina's Lee Correctional Institution that left seven inmates dead. Organized by a South Carolina-based group of incarcerated individuals calling themselves Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, the strike was rolled out with a list of ten demands challenging conditions of "modern day slavery" at state and federal jails and prisons and immigration detention centers.

"A 29-year-old former inmate at the Logan Correctional Center alleges she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by a counselor at the prison in a federal lawsuit filed Friday by the Uptown People’s Law Center."

Strawberry Hampton, a transgender woman currently serving a ten-year sentence for residential burglary at Dixon Correctional Center, the fourth male prison she's been transferred to within the year, filed new claims against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) on July 17 stating that she's been sexually and physically assaulted by inmates and prison guards, and requesting she be transferred to Logan Correctional Center, a women's prison.

Under the settlement, the Illinois Department of Corrections will have to provide sign language interpreters for what are called “high stakes interactions” — like disciplinary hearings, medical visits, and counseling sessions.

"She has been repeatedly physically and verbally harassed — physically attacked — by men, both staff and prisoners, at every men’s prison she’s been housed at,” says her lawyer Alan Mills, with the Uptown People's Law Center.

A transgender woman currently incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Center is renewing her push for a transfer to an all-female prison, alleging that she suffered physical and sexual abuse from guards and male detainees.

"A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago’s evictions of homeless people, even as officials continue to remove homeless people and fail to provide affordable housing."

"Reports of physical abuse of mentally ill inmates at Pontiac Correctional Center should be investigated by the state, according to a doctor's report on the state's compliance with a federal court settlement on prison mental health care."

"A resource that civil rights attorneys say is critical for prisoners across the country who are fighting abuse and neglect behind bars has just become off-limits to Florida inmates."

"There is credible evidence of guards physically abusing mentally ill inmates at Pontiac Correctional Center, according to a psychiatrist appointed by a federal court to monitor treatment of mentally ill prisoners by the Illinois Department of Corrections."

"A day after a federal judge dismissed Uptown Tent City Organizers' lawsuit against the City of Chicago, the homeless organization's attorneys are vowing to continue a court battle for the right of those who have been displaced by authorities to camp out in the streets."

"Following a federal district court judge’s dismissal Tuesday of a lawsuit against the city of Chicago for denying permits for an Uptown “tent city,” advocates for the homeless said they would continue their fight to allow homeless people to “protect themselves against the city’s notoriously harsh climate.”

"Frustrated lawmakers are quizzing state prison officials and advocates for mentally ill inmates on the potential costs of court-ordered improvements to behavioral health care in the Illinois Department of Corrections."

"The Illinois Department of Corrections is making progress in its effort to create a mental health treatment system that meets constitutional mandates, prison officials told lawmakers Wednesday."

"Civil liberties groups are pushing back against proposed legislation in Illinois that would allow police to dramatically expand the use of drones to monitor large gatherings of people and equip those drones with cameras with controversial facial recognition technology." - Chicago Reader

"A federal judge on Tuesday soundly rejected a proposal from the Illinois Department of Corrections to address serious flaws in mental health care for 12,000 state inmates."

"While the movement to end money bail has gained steam across the nation, the burgeoning fight against the exorbitant "pay-to-stay" fees charged by prisons and jails has yet to enter the public eye in the same way. - TruthOut

"Imprisoned on charges related to sex work, Tiffany Rusher was eventually placed in solitary confinement for getting into a physical struggle with one of her cellmates. During her time in solitary confinement, Rusher's mental health began to deteriorate, initiating a cycle of self-harm." - TruthOut

"A federal judge has ruled the Illinois prison system is still providing inadequate mental healthcare to inmates and that the treatment qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment." - NPR WVIK

"The constitutional rights of mentally ill inmates have been violated by the Department of Corrections, a federal judge told attorneys Wednesday, citing the state's failure to comply with an agreement to improve conditions for thousands of prisoners." - Pantagraph

"About 7:45 am on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, I muster the energy to get out of bed and walk the step to the sink from the bottom bunk and I hear it. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. "Shit!" I say to myself as my cellmate and I look at each other wide-eyed. We know that sound anywhere. That's three-foot-long, two-inch diameter solid wood batons hitting the steel bars as "Orange Crush" runs down the gallery clunking every bar along the way as they yell." - TruthOut

"Across the country, thousands of incarcerated people face sexual harassment, abuse and assault, frequently at the hands of staff. In the face of these attacks -- and the reality of retaliation -- incarcerated people have come forward to file complaints and lawsuits, fighting back against system-wide abuse."

The Cook County Board will soon hear a proposed resolution to investigate the impact of bail reform in the county. The proposal is in response to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s recent misguided letter to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, advising her that he would not comply with court orders freeing people in jail on bond.

A mother is suing Illinois and Sangamon County officials for failing to prevent her daughter's suicide.

"A transgender woman has filed an emergency order in federal court to stop alleged abuse and harassment by Illinois Department Of Corrections guards."

"The publisher of a newsletter about the criminal justice system filed a lawsuit this week against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging that multiple state prisons barred inmates from receiving all or part of several publications."

Chicago Tiny House Inc., the newest of a half-dozen organizations trying to bring the little homes here, held a fund-raiser on January 26 in Uptown.

A transgender woman who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary is now seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison after enduring sexual assault, taunting, and beatings in male prisons.

"A 26-year-old transgender woman serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary is seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison where she says she'll be less vulnerable to the kinds of sexual assault, taunting and beatings she's been subjected to in male prisons." - ABC News

  • Kenneth & Harle Montgomery Foundation